Eclectic, Non-Commercial, Listener Supported, UC Berkeley Radio Station KALX 90.7FM Currently Holding Its Fall Fundraiser

Posted by Billyjam, October 19, 2016 05:32pm | Post a Comment
Casual radio listeners, conditioned to judging a station's format by whatever they hear upon first tuning in, sure must be dumbfounded if they ever stumble upon KALX at 90.7FM on their radio dial. Because at any given time you never know what kind of music you might hear on the eclectic, non-commercial, UC Berkeley listener sponsored radio station, currently holding their Fall Fundraiser.  For example in one freeform music hour over this past weekend the diverse music mix shifted through varying genres, decades and BPMs. Tracks off such new albums as De La Soul's recommended hip-hop release and the Anonymous Nobody...(also on LP) and LA rock-cellist Helen Money's (Alison Chesley) Become Zero on Thrill Jockey  got played alongside such previous era releases as the 2002 album Thought for Food (Tomlab) by "folktronic" duo The Books, and the early 1970's pop rock, doobie themed hit "One Toke Over the Line" by Brewer & Shipley. And it all flowed together perfectly thanks to the DJ on the air: Alisa, Queen of the Cowbell. It was the final hour of the always excellent and enlightening longtime KALX DJ's biweekly, Friday night, 9:30pm to midnight, slot that she alternates with Berkestir. Both are among the volunteer roster of gifted DJs on the East Bay radio station that has long championed eclecticism in its programming.

The radio station, that celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2012, has long encouraged its DJs to be musically diverse and adventurous programmers. DJs are trained to make a point of playing several different genres within each hour and to dig deep into the station's vast music library (vinyl and CDs as well as digital). As a former KALX volunteer in public affairs and music programming, who began a DJ career at the station, I credit KALX for nurturing my approach to diversity in music.

Legendary among envious crate diggers who have visited the radio station, KALX's vast record library goes deep and wide, as does it CD collection. Equally impressive are the music library's "new bins" which are always brimming with a broad diverse selection of new releases to dig from: included there are lots of indie labels' output that the music department staff has a tradition of tirelessly tracking down for inclusion. With such a wide selection of music and genres to choose from, and with each KALX DJ having their own unique taste, no two KALX shows are alike.  Hence DJs with say more of a hip-hop or world music or sixties garage band musical leaning, will showcase their taste while still adhering to the station's diverse format.  The typical KALX DJ puts in endless hours of work for the station listener, playing the role of curators by wading through the volumes of new releases to locate the creme de la creme. Sometimes you might hear something totally crazy and atonal that you have never heard anything like before. You might hate it at first, or never like it, but you will constantly be challenged and exposed to new sounds by the DJs on KALX.  90.7FM's current schedule DJ lineup includes such uniquely talented musicologists as Carnacki (Tuesdays 9pm to midnight), Pop Goes The Weasel (Fridays 9am to noon), Meaty Paws (Thursdays 6pm-9pm), Rubberband Girl (Saturdays noon-3pm), The Muse (Mondays 3-6pm), Majority Whip (Sundays 9am to noon), and Charley Varrick (3pm - 6pm Fridays) .

As well as the regular 3 hour DJ shows of diverse mixes there's also specialty one hour music shows such as Information Overload Wednesday nights at midnight (see full midnight weekly schedule above), and talk programs such as Soapbox Derby (Thursdays at 9pm). That politically charged, call-in, half hour interview format show is hosted by longtime Berkeley political/punk figure Jesse Luscious who also does a great music show. On his Tuesdays 6am-9am show, Jesse plays a refreshing mix of punk, hip-hop, comedy sketches and much more. During school semester there's morning and evening KALX news programs that feature students from the university. Similarly UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism produces the excellent weekly North Gate Radio show for a half hour on Thursday mornings at 9am. And being that the station is part of UC Berkeley, it has a duty to carry a lot of CAL games, that override music programming, including women's basketball and CAL Bears Football. Over the years there's been countless amazing and noteworthy DJs on KALX including (to name but a handful) Last Will, DJ Kitty, Davey D, 45 RPM, Drew Daniel of Matmos, Beni B, Mad Max, Honey Jo West, "Disco" Shawn Reynaldo, Rickey "Uhuru Maggot" Vincent, Gary "G-Spot" Baca, and Kenny Kaos

Not surprisingly Amoeba Berkeley on Telegraph Ave., just a few blocks from KALX, has developed a relationship with the radio station over time. Since the store first opened back in 1990, KALX DJs have been digging deep in the crates at Amoeba. And over the years many KALX DJs have also worked at Amoeba. These include the late great music fanatic Matthew Africa, who tragically died in car crash four years ago, and Gail Warning who was immortalized when referenced in the 2003 published New York Times Best Seller The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham that included a fictional KALX DJ character.  E-Lit, who works at Amoeba Berkeley's hip-hop department, holds down the Tuesday 9:30am to noon slot on KALX in which he crafts a deeply researched show with a different theme each week.

The beauty of listening to a radio station like KALX is that it is real DJs / humans picking and personally programming the music, and doing so in real time. It is eclectic, at times challenging, but never boring or like some algorithm driven internet stream. The DJs are there locally in the studio, located in the basement of Barrows Hall on the campus, responding to everything that is going on immediately around them including a strong tradition of showing major love for local indie artists, both in general and via the long-running demo tape show The Next Big Thing (Mondays at 6pm) by Marshall Stax. The Saturday night (9pm - midnight) KALX Live sessions also showcases a lot of local talent along with visiting national acts who do exclusive live KALX sets. The deep vaults of KALX live exclusives also include shows recorded/broadcast from outside the station including such bygone era sets as Talking Heads on UC's Sproul Plaza and the Descendents at the Berkeley Square.

All of KALX's unique attributes makes the community radio station  a special cultural entity: one that, in this era, is also an endangered species. In recent years so many university stations, like the longtime beloved KUSF on the University of San Francisco, have been silenced and replaced with some other boring, but more lucrative and less trouble, format for its license holders. Hence the importance of the ongoing KALX Fall Fundraiser to keep this local cultural oasis alive. Under the guidance of longtime station General Manager Sandra Wasson the radio station has met the ever increasing challenge of managing to balance its annual budget that comes from the UC campus, some underwriting, and listener support. From 6am until midnight every day through next Monday, October 24th, the Fundraiser is happening on 90.7FM and online. Support KALX by calling (510) 642-5259 or online here. In addition to preserving this cultural landmark, you'll get a chance to cop a variety of KALX swag, and bonus prizes: music, gift certificates, tickets. More info.

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Kenny Kaos (1), 90.7fm (1), Hip-hop (217), Marshall Stax (1), Punk Rock (16), Kalx Radio (1), College Radio (4), Bay Area Music (2), Last Will (1), Helen Money (1), Kalx (20), Kalx Fall Fundraiser (1), Alisa: Queen Of The Cowbell (1), Carnacki (2)